As operational costs and call volume have increased during each of the last four years, Harrison Emergency Medical Services' (EMS) funding has remained the same, leaving department Chief Joseph Bilotto concerned that he will have to make some difficult spending cuts 2013.
Possibilities include a reduction in EMS staffing and possibly even taking one of department's two emergency trucks of the road. The cuts will be necessary because the costs of insurance, equipment and training continue to increase.
"I have to pull from one place to another and unfortunately it's going to be a cut in service to the community," Bilotto said.
Harrison EMS provides emergency response at fires, car accidents and medical emergencies on a daily basis, providing aid to those in need in Harrison, West Harrison and Purchase. Because of the widespread territory, Bilotto fears that taking a truck out of 24-hour operation will force them to rely more on mutual aid, which could hurt response times.
"I think that if we start stressing White Plains and Port Chester it's going to be a lot longer than nine minutes to get an ambulance," Bilotto said. "If you're having a heart attack and you're supposed to get treatment within four to six minutes, waiting longer than 10 minutes for an ambulance is going to be detrimental to people's lives."
Bilotto has approached the town board every year since 2008 to request additional funding. Harrison EMS is a third-party to the town of Harrison, but the town pays a $500,000 stipend to the department to help fund operating costs. The remainder of EMS' $2.2 million budget is paid through billing and donations.
This year Bilotto asked the board for an additional $100,000, but was denied when the board approved the 2013 budget in December.
While there was no increase this year, Harrison Mayor/Supervisor Ron Belmont said the department will get a serious look in next year's budget.
"We have to seriously look at giving them a raise," Belmont said. "Hopefully we can accommodate them."
In the meantime, Bilotto said the department has struggled to meet its operating costs. Last year's funding ran dry in December, and the department had to use part of it's 2013 stipend to catch up on payments. It's likely the department will again struggle to finish the year outside of the red.
On average, Harrison EMS responds to between 225 and 250 emergency calls a week. That number has increased steadily over the last few years. Bilotto said he has heard promises from town leadership that additional funding will be considered, but nothing has changed over the last five years.
"To me, it seems like everyone on the town board turned their backs to us," he said.